UNSW response to Respect. Now. Always report

UNSW has welcomed the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s student survey on sexual harassment and sexual assault in Australian universities. 

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The UNSW campus.

UNSW welcomes the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s student survey on sexual harassment and sexual assault in Australian universities as a critical step in assisting us to address this behaviour. The report provides important information about the nature and the prevalence of sexual student assault and harassment in our universities.

The national and UNSW specific data are available online here. They are deeply concerning. Sexual assault and harassment are undeniable and unacceptable realities for our universities. The availability of this survey information is an important step on our journey to ensure that our students, staff and visitors are safe.

Some of the UNSW specific findings are as follows:

  • Of the 727 UNSW students who responded, 1.3% reported being sexual assaulted in a university setting in 2015 and/or 2016, a figure comprising 1.5% of female respondents and 0.7% of male respondents.
  • 29% of respondents reported being sexually harassed at university in 2016. 32% of female respondents and 29% of male respondents reported being sexually harassed at university.
  • An even higher proportion of our students reported being sexually assaulted and sexually harassed in their lives beyond the University. Overall, 5.5% of UNSW respondents reported being victims of sexual assault in 2015 and/or 2016. 52% reported experiencing sexual harassment.
  • 74% of those who were sexually harassed at university said the perpetrator was a student of the university or a student in their place of residence; 9% said the perpetrator was a tutor, lecturer or non-academic university staff member of the university.
  • 83% of those who were sexually harassed at university said the perpetrators were males or that males and females were both involved.
  • 25% of students reported being sexually harassed on public transport to or from University.
  • Only 4% of students who were sexually harassed at university indicated that they sought support and assistance from the university.
  • A high proportion of respondents, over 70%, indicated that they did not report sexual harassment because they did not think it was serious enough.
  • More than half of the respondents indicated that they had little or no knowledge of UNSW policies on sexual harassment and assault, of where to seek support/assistance and of where to go within the University to make a complaint.

Since the start of our close involvement in the Respect.Now.Always. initiative, UNSW has implemented a number of initiatives to prevent sexual harassment and assault and to improve reporting processes, support and resources for victims and survivors, and training for staff in responding to these issues. We have much more work to do on a sustained, ongoing basis and are committed to addressing the issues the AHRC Report reveals. Our actions include:

  • Implementing in full the recommendations of an Internal Audit into prevention of, and responses to, sexual misconduct finalised in February 2017.
  • Behavioural change training for staff and students to address attitudes that are the drivers of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
  • An independent external review of UNSW’s procedures and policies around preventing and responding to sexual assault, sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour. 
  • Training staff to be ‘first responders’ to disclosures of sexual assault/misconduct, so staff know what to do to when a person discloses information about sexual assault or harassment; and 
  • A new portal for reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment which provides easy to find and navigate, up-to-date information on how to report sexual assault and harassment, and where to go for immediate and long-term support. 

In addition, the good practice report “On Safe Ground” produced by the UNSW Human Rights Centre will be released on 3 August, and will inform further developments at UNSW in this area.

UNSW supports and will implement all of the recommendations made in the AHRC Report. My thanks to all of the students who participated in the survey. We will treat the AHRC Report as a call to action in addressing this troubling issue and as an important step in our ongoing journey to achieve the behavioural change that we need to take as a community.

Note:  If the release of the AHRC report on Tuesday raises concerns, or if you or someone you know needs support or advice about this issue, you can use UNSW’s new portal to identify and access options. If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct, support is available 24/7 at 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 737 or www.1800respect.org.au for telephone or online counselling and information. 

Universities Australia has also established a new national 24/7 support line that will operate from today until 30 November 2017 and be run by specialist trauma counselling service, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia. The number for that line is 1800 572 224.